Recruiting journal staff

Topic lead: Solange Santos, Elle Malcolmson, Andy Nobes
Last updated: 05/06/2023

Editors, peer-reviewers, managers, production staff and other internal personnel all have a role to play in establishing and maintaining technical quality standards and ensuring that all submissions meet rigorous scientific and ethical standards. Recruiting, training, and developing journal staff is both a challenge and an investment. Considering diversity among your workforce is a responsibility.

Trying to build a strong journal team and editorial board is a complex challenge. Successful journals develop recruitment strategies that are tailored to their specific needs and growth targets and review this on a regular basis. Recruitment in journals is not dissimilar to other organisations, but care must be taken in covering the broad range of roles and responsibilities typical to journal publishing.

When a journal is starting, a very small team is often appropriate, but recruitment should be considered as the volume of publication grows. Volunteers may be useful especially under a limited budget: the editor’s prestige and contacts can be leveraged to find volunteer researchers willing to work with the journal.

Do keep in mind that recruitment is only the first step to develop journal staff. Providing relevant training and developing opportunities for your team is key, alongside having clear career growth and advancement opportunities (see Training and staff development).

Key steps

We recommend the following key steps are followed when recruiting for your journal:

  1. Determine which roles are essential to your journal: Before starting to recruit your team, identify the roles and responsibilities that you think are essential at the current stage of development of your journal. The section Roles and responsibilities provides further detail on this.
  2. Define the requirements for each role: Before advertising positions, ensure the skills required for each role are clear. Journal staff should have defined roles and responsibilities to ensure smooth operations. As part of this, consider if prior publishing experience is really necessary, as well as whether a specific degree, doctorate or other professional experience may be useful.
  3. Advertise the roles: Academic job boards, professional associations, the journal’s website, social media and other journals that allow advertising may be a good starting point for your advertising efforts. Particularly as a journal is starting, it may be helpful to ask existing or former editorial board members/guest editors to recommend suitable colleagues or to consider frequent authors or reviewers in the journal (and competing journals too).
  4. Screen applications: Screen against the job requirements, considering relevant experiences, qualifications and demonstrated skills. This is especially important if you are looking for individuals who can promptly start supporting you in running the journal.
  5. Conduct interviews: Conduct the interviews with promising candidates, either in person or remotely. Remote candidates are likely to be needed, as editorial staff and board members are often from different countries and institutions.

Compensation for journal staff

In cases where journals seek to recruit industry professionals, compensation is expected in the form of a salary. However, when academics are supporting a journal alongside their research or teaching responsibilities, there is an unspoken expectation that they would work without compensation. This arises from the widespread perception that working with or for journals is simply part of the job and may be compensated by the growth in standing and prestige in one’s discipline arising from taking such a role. This concept, however, is being increasingly challenged by academic communities, including through demands for more transparency.

Although some individuals may be willing to support journals for free, whether this is feasible depends on their full time occupation and salary, with significant variation around the globe. In some cases, journals may pay limited expenses for academics in an editorial role (e.g. conference attendance, travel), while in others a more formal payment is offered. Several academics opt to receive such a payment in their departmental or research budget, to fund ongoing work or the time of other researchers (e.g. PhDs, post-doctoral researchers).

The discussion around journal staff compensation is evolving, and there is no broadly accepted best practice. As a result, we recommend that journals carefully discuss this internally prior to advertising new positions, including in light of current funding available and future forecasts.

Other considerations for inclusive recruitment

Journals, like any other organisation, should always adopt inclusive recruitment practices. Recruitment processes should consider inclusion, equity and diversity in order to build more representative staff and editorial boards. Key dimensions to consider include diversity in terms of gender, nationality and culture, and it is often helpful to proactively encourage individuals from minority groups, indigenous groups and persons with disabilities to apply.

The above is achieved by using equitable and inclusive language in job descriptions and by following inclusive interview and work practices.

Share this article

Download this article